Talking to my Body (1996)

By: Anna Swir
Translated by: Czesław Miłosz, Leonard Nathan
Published by: Copper Canyon Press

At our next meeting we will read poems by Anna Swir, or Anna Świrszczyńska (1909-1984), to give her full name.

Anna Swir was born in Warsaw, Poland, to an artistic though impoverished family. She worked from an early age, supporting herself while she attended university to study medieval Polish literature. In the 1930s she worked for a teachers’ association, served as an editor, and began publishing poetry. Swir joined the Resistance during World War II and worked as a military nurse during the Warsaw Uprising; at one point she came within an hour of being executed before she was spared. In addition to poetry, Swir wrote plays and stories for children and directed a children’s theater. She lived in Krakow from 1945 until her death from cancer in 1984.

I’ve highlighted the most easily available edition of her work in English, Talking to my Body, with translations by Czesław Miłosz and Leonard Nathan, but other collections have appeared, including Fat Like the Sun (1986, translated by Margaret Marshment & Grazyna Baran), as well as two versions of Building the Barricade (1979, translated by Magnus Jan Kryński & Robert A. Maguire, and 2011, translated by Piotr Florczyk).

Eight poems from Talking to my Body are available here on the Poetry Foundation website, and a ninth at poets.org here.

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